Wow. I know it’s a new world and Radio is about as old world as the form gets, but I really didn’t expect this: The Blue Jays are doing away with dedicated radio broadcasts for the 2021 season, electing instead to simulcast their TV broadcast over the radio, which …
… is not the same thing, as the lead singer of RUSH (and Blue Jays superfan), Geddy Lee, put it so eloquently in his response to the news:
The @BlueJays won't have dedicated radio broadcasts for this season's games. Instead, the TV broadcasts will get simulcast on radio. This does not sit well with baseball traditionalists like Jays superfan, Geddy Lee of @rushtheband pic.twitter.com/X5Vp8mtmV4
— Jared Max (@Jared_Max) March 31, 2021
Yes, you’ll still be able to catch the calls in your car over AM radio, sort of, but that’s hardly the point.
Radio Broadcasters and TV Broadcasters have a fundamentally different job, working with two completely different mediums (there’s a reason we never heard Len Kasper describing the “trousers” each team was wearing, and why he wanted to make a change to try out radio). To transplant the TV team’s audio into the radio broadcast will either (1) reduce the quality of listening to the game over the radio waves or (2) change the way the TV broadcasters call the game. Neither is particularly attractive.
The decision, itself, was announced as part of an effort to “minimize travel and closely adhere to team, league, and government protocols related to the pandemic,” but there hasn’t been any indication that they’d return the broadcasts after the pandemic. In all likelihood, this is a strategic business decision, and former radio man, now retiree, Nelson Millman can already see the writing on the wall.
“I’m disappointed, a little sad,” Millman said. “But not surprised at the end of the day …. I’m sad because I do think they may never go back to a radio-only broadcast, because of the changes and the fragmentation on platforms.”
According to The Athletic, Sportsnet (the Blue Jays exclusive broadcast partner and Canada’s main television outlet for MLB), has undergone a “series of cost-cutting moves over the past two years,” and this was sold as both a “streamlining” of the production — you know, something fans REALLY care about — and “based on COVID.”
Vice President of Sportsnet Rob Corte said all the usual things corporate people say when they want you to accept a change they know is unpopular:
“I’m not surprised [by the voiced displeasure with the announcement], and I understand that there’s some disappointment,” said Corte. “But I will say this: We’ve got a great plan in place, and we’ve got a great group. I would just encourage everybody to have a listen and sample it. I think they’ll be pleased with the product that they’re going to get.”
I’m not going to claim that I listen to more Cubs radio broadcasts than TV broadcasts – I try to catch as many games on TV as I can, and I listen to radio in transit or by a pool or something. But I can wholeheartedly and honestly pronounce that the difference between the experiences is not only crucial, it’s endearing. I love listening to Pat and Ron when I can, and I love that it’s an entirely different experience. Again, there’s a reason why Len Kasper left the Cubs booth to follow his dream of calling games on the radio … it’s a very different animal. To just pretend that they’re the same thing in an effort to save money is exactly the sort of short-sighted, bottom-line business decisions that seem great on paper and almost always end up as a mistake.
I hope we never – ever – see something like this in Chicago.